The stepfather comes from a background of neglect. His own father committed suicide when he was 6 years old. He found out when he was 9 years old. His mom ended up with a boyfriend who was a drug addict/alcoholic. Mom worked while all the kids and this boyfriend were at home doing drugs and drinking. As a boy, he was not fed or bathe and was ridiculed for it by his mom's boyfriend. By age 14, he was drinking himself. By 16 he was addicted to cocaine. He's been clean for just a few years.
The stepson has his own issues as well. He is not on drugs or alcohol, but his biological father has made some major mistakes as well. This bio father is trying to make up for by making promises that he fails to keep. The mom is basically caught in the middle of this mess and does not know how to defend her own son.
Well, I had the boy come in with his mom for a session or two. Then I had the stepfather come in with the mom. Then I had the whole family come in. Overall, we discussed being consistent with the rules for all the children, at an age appropriate level. I really think the stepfather is trying very hard, but he becomes frustrated because the boy becomes frustrated and they truly clash in a major way.
Once we established age appropriate consequences for each child, and follow-through, I was able to focus more on the stepfather and the 13 year old son. We discussed communication with respect. I provided the boy with some outlets to help relieve some of his frustration and gave stepdad some phrases to reflect back to the boy during conflict. This allowed the boy to hear and know that the stepdad understood what he was feeling.
To my surprise, I received a phone call from the dad letting me know that this technique worked. When he did it, he was calm with no yelling. The son became teary-eyed and speechless! The situation never escalated and resulted in a hug between the two of them! I was in tears myself!
Not every client works out this way. In fact, very few do. However, it feels sooo good when it does! :-).
Happy thoughts and prayers!